How Does One “Open” Science? Questions of Value in Biological Research
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Science, Technology, & Human Values 42 (2): 280-305 (2017)

Open Science policies encourage researchers to disclose a wide range of outputs from their work, thus codifying openness as a specific set of research practices and guidelines that can be interpreted and applied consistently across disciplines and geographical settings. In this paper, we argue that this “one-size-fits-all” view of openness sidesteps key questions about the forms, implications, and goals of openness for research practice. We propose instead to interpret openness as a dynamic and highly situated mode of valuing the research process and its outputs, which encompasses economic as well as scientific, cultural, political, ethical, and social considerations. This interpretation creates a critical space for moving beyond the economic definitions of value embedded in the contemporary biosciences landscape and Open Science policies, and examining the diversity of interests and commitments that affect research practices in the life sciences. To illustrate these claims, we use three case studies that highlight the challenges surrounding decisions about how––and how best––to make things open. These cases, drawn from ethnographic engagement with Open Science debates and semistructured interviews carried out with UK-based biologists and bioinformaticians between 2013 and 2014, show how the enactment of openness reveals judgments about what constitutes a legitimate intellectual contribution, for whom, and with what implications.
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